Becoming Capa

The Photographic Novella

Becoming Capa was written in 1992 in my final year at the University of Missouri-Columbia, and was adapted for a movie called Becoming Royston.

I am pleased/sorry to say that the first run of 300 is sold out.

ISBN 978-981-08-2174-6

Becoming Capa was written in the winter of 1992, for a creative writing class I was taking at the University of Missouri-Columbia.

That being my last semester in college, I was obviously conflicted.

There was always this constant question that bothered me: Should I stay or should I go?

When my friends read my first draft, they all asked if it was autobiographical. But some saw glimpses of themselves in my short story.

I would be wrong not to highlight the significance of a good friend who inspired this.

Motoya Nakamura, now a photographer at The Oregonian newspaper, was my first friend in Missouri.

I didn’t ask for his permission but I named my main character after him.

We all admired Robert Capa but Motoya was obsessed with him.

I remember Motoya was always asking, “Why did Capa set up pictures?”

I don’t remember if his question was ever answered but I remember that we took this discussion everywhere.

The people we hung out with were international and multiracial, not so different from our beloved Magnum.

Some of us even decided to start Tiger Photo – a Magnum-inspired agency. We agreed that we should all swop countries of residence so we would be able to offer a fresher perspective.

Then, we all graduated and went our separate ways.

This little novella was left alone for more than a decade until one day, two crazy friends, Randy Ang & Nicholas Chee, asked if I had an interesting story they could turn into a feature film.

To get rid of their nagging, I sent them my “masterpiece”.

Half an hour later, it was decided that it would become a movie. on the spur of a moment, which I am still regretting, I volunteered to act in it.

Subsequently, another friend, Terence Teo, came in as a scriptwriter, and the story transformed from Becoming Capa to Becoming Royston.

Movie-making, I was to learn very quickly, is a totally different ballgame from still photography, and certainly one not suitable for me.

For a start, I hate the sound of my own voice, not to mention any recorded image of myself.

As a control freak, I also find it easier to work alone – which was what I did putting this little book together.

Finding the right images, to me the toughest part of the process, required a good memory and a willingness to take risks, but i would be lying to say that I didn’t enjoy the journey.

The images that appear here were culled from my archives which span at least 20 years, and behind every image is a personal story.

I deliberately used a few pictures out of context, but many of them are eerily close in spirit to the words, and they left me wondering, from time to time, if I was trying to live up to fiction.

From a short story, to a feature film, to a book, I don’t think I could have asked for anything more.